Government pours more money into Botany as Newcastle pushes its case as a container alternative

RAILROADED: Budget plan to duplicate freight line will add to Botany capacity.PORT of Newcastle chairman Roy Green says his organisation will be “relentless” in its pursuit of a container terminal despite thefederal government announcing budget funding for rail works tohelp expand Port Botany’s container capacity.

A $400-million duplication of 2.8km of the 18km Botany to Enfield freight rail line was described in April as a “high priority initiative” by Infrastructure , meaning it was nationally important but a business case had not been done.

Newcastle’s container terminal case rests partly as an alternative to Sydney congestion, so anything that eases this could tend to hamper the Hunter’s cause.

Professor Green acknowledged that the port had sufficiently emphasised a Newcastle container terminal at the time the Infrastructure list of priority proposals was being compiled, but it had since “hit the ground running”.

He said Newcastle’s business case remained intactregardless of improvements to the Botany line.

READ MORE:Two operators interested in running Newcastle container terminalPrime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Monday that Canberra would fully fund the $400-million project.

“Duplicating the Botany line will improve freight movement on Sydney’s rail network and encourage a shift in freight from road to rail – reducing traffic congestion in and around Sydney Airport and Port Botany,” Mr Turnbull said.

Professor Green said the arguments for a Newcastle container terminal “remain the same”.

“This is about reducing costs and providing an alternative for importers and exporters,” Professor Green said.

READ MORE:A container terminal for Newcastle?“This is not just special pleading. We have the n Competition and Consumer Commission looking at the fee imposed on a Newcastle container terminal and there are now conversations going on in government about how to deal with that. Hopefully, the combination of the two will produce a result in time.

“To put it in sporting terms, the Newcastle container fee is a goal that should never have been allowed. We are hoping the ACCC, as referee, will look at it again,” Professor Green said.